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Is there really a lead dust issue tumbling brass

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by leftym4, Oct 18, 2012.

  1. leftym4

    leftym4 Active Member

    I read that lead dust is a concern and care should be used when tumbling and using the media separator when cleaning brass.

    I can see how that could be a issue is shooting non jacketed lead bullets but if they are jacketed is that really a concern ?

    I ask cause i have kids and i don't want take any chances with lead dust being any ware near them

  2. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    It's not the bullets that should concern you, it's the primers. Lead in bullet form is not as dangerous as many think. The lead has to be airborne or be ingested to be harmful. It's extremely difficult for the lead in bullets to become airborne. The primers are much more dangerous because when airborne the lead in them can enter your body through your lungs.

    I keep the top on the tumbler when it's running and I separate the media from the brass out the back door so the dust doesn't stay in the basement.
  3. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    There's certainly lead residue, as well as a mix of nasty chemicals leftover from smokeless combustion. It's absolutely toxic. I don't know the actual lead content, but I do know even sorting old brass gives my fingers a very lead-like sheen. That's one reason I started using gloves and went with a thumbler style wet tumbler. It's also quieter, more compact and does a better job on the brass.
  4. GLOOB

    GLOOB Well-Known Member

    Are you tumbling the bullets or the cases? :)

    ArchAngel has said it, already. Priming compound's active ingredient is lead styphnate. The sooty, flaky crud inside the cases and especially in the primer pockets contains oxidized lead compounds which are finely powdered and lighter than elemental lead. This is what gets gets airborne when tumbling and separating the media. It's still pretty heavy, though, and it settles on the nearby surfaces. You'll find piles of this powder around the bottom of your press after decapping a bunch of cases. So just imagine taking that powder and putting it in a tumbler with your media where it gets ground into even finer particles and shaken around. Well, you don't have to imagine it, cuz it's already in there.
  5. dragon813gt

    dragon813gt Well-Known Member

    This topic comes up all the time. I used a lead test on my reloading bench. Came up negative but I clean it often. It's also my casting area. I have yet to use one where I use my tumbler. I'm interested to see of that area comes up negative. I tumble thousands of rounds of range pickups a month so the tumbler runs quite often.

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  6. 45_auto

    45_auto Well-Known Member

    I've been reloading and using a vibrating tumbler for almost 40 years. Also casting bullets.

    I've probably averaged 500 rounds a week, mostly 45 ACP.

    I don't take any special precautions while tumbling or sorting brass or casting bullets.

    About 5 years ago I had a lead test done as part of my annual physical. Doctor asked why I wanted it, I told him that I shot and reloaded a lot and was interested if there were any effects I should be aware of.

    My test came back completely normal.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2012
  7. hentown

    hentown Well-Known Member

    I always put the cover on my tumbler when tumbling. ;) I'm usually not in the room when the tumbler's running.

    BADUNAME37 Well-Known Member

    I also get the black, shiny, slippery substance on my hands when pawing-through the media upon sifting.

    I would say that it very much IS lead, among other things. Just this morning, I sifted some media and realized this was the last time I am going to do it indoors. I also keep the tumbler lid on while tumbling to prevent the media dust from going literally EVERYWHERE!
  9. hentown

    hentown Well-Known Member

    I never have any reason to "paw through the media." I use a rotating separator.
  10. BADUNAME37

    BADUNAME37 Well-Known Member

    I don't, either, when I am tumbling brass, however, I had tumbled a bunch of corroded copper and brass electrical connections, split bolts, nuts, washers, etc. which meant I had to pour very slowly and grab the small parts before they fell through the course sifter I was using. Being brass and copper, a magnet wouldn't have worked.
  11. jcwit

    jcwit Well-Known Member

    Neither do I, and I use a wire mesh collander I purchased at WalMart for less than $2.00. Works like a charm being as I also use 20/40 grit corn cob. Flows like fine sand.
  12. USSR

    USSR Well-Known Member

    Over about an 18 month period, I tumbled well over 100,000 once-fired M118LR brass that I was selling. This was done in a basement with no ventilation. Blood testing for lead revealed a lead level of between 2 and 3 (very low), for which a level of 25 is determined as requiring medical intervention. In addition, I cast lead bullets in the same unventilated basement. Bottom line? Keep your fingers out of your mouth and wash your hands when you are done, and you will be fine.

  13. TonyT

    TonyT Well-Known Member

    I use a vibrating type case cleaner and change the medium as soon as it satrst turning grey. Ground corn cob and walnut shells are purchsed quite inexpensively from the pet stores.
  14. leftym4

    leftym4 Active Member

    Wow some really interesting information here. Thanks!. Had no idea the lead was in the primers . So some real care needs to taken in cleaning primer pockets and removing primers as well.

    So what cleaning method would be the best for limiting the amount of exposure ?

    traditional corn cob/walnut method

    stainless steel pins?


    Thanks again for the wealth of info.
  15. James2

    James2 Well-Known Member

    I have never had a lead test. I do cast bullets, shoot and reload lead bullets.
    When I use the tumbler, I put it on the patio and any dust can then be outside, not in the house. I do my casting out on the patio too. I really don't think there is any big sweat about it if we take some sensible precautions. Keeping hands away from the face and washing hands is important I think.
  16. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Well-Known Member

    My experience has been the same as USSR's. I run three tumblers most of the time in my garage, cast bullets and load ammunition there, too. My last blood test for lead showed well within the normal range at 9, and I've been doing this since 1963. I've loaded well over 750,000 rounds of various calibers of ammunition during that time, and since I don't give it away or sell it, that means I've shot that many rounds, too.

    Everybody handles so called "toxic substances" differently. Anything can cause a problem, i.e.: Sugar, etc. If it makes you feel good to suit up in a Hazmat outfit, wear surgical gloves, booties and a mask while loading and tumbling, then go for it, but your exposure is greater when the round is fired.

    Common sense dictates you should wash your hands after handling lead and lead products and keep your hands out of your mouth and nose prior to washing your hands. Don't eat or smoke while reloading, etc. These simple things will prevent you from having an abnormal blood lead level.

    Hope this helps.

  17. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Well-Known Member

    The "black shiny stuff" is carbon from burned gunpowder residue.

    Tumbling creates a dust issue, even if you run the tumbler with the lid on. So, I do all my tumbling outside the back door. Dry breezy weather is best.
  18. Ehtereon11B

    Ehtereon11B internet infantryman

    I put a drier sheet in my tumbler and it seems to make a difference on how much dust gets into the air.
  19. Hondo 60

    Hondo 60 Well-Known Member

    Sorry, but in my case that's not necessarily true.
    About a year or two ago I asked my Dr for the lead test.
    It came back at 29!
    I don't cast, I don't tumble in the house,
    I don't smoke, I don't eat in my reloading area
    & I always wash my hands after shooting or reloading.

    By the way, I was using a lot of lead bullets (10,000+/yr)
    (when fired, the smoke was pretty bad)

    I was able to cut it by 1/3 (to 20) in about 4 months, by using plated or jacketed only.
    I'm going again Oct 31, I'll see if he'll order a lead test again.
  20. 1SOW

    1SOW Well-Known Member

    I shoot and load about 1000+ 9mm/mo avg.
    One thing I do is not to avoid lead, but to avoid crudding up may main press and tumbler media. I wash my range brass outdoors, and deprime on a single stage on the patio.

    The outdoor press gets filthy and requires frequent cleaning. The main press in my garage stays clean for a looong time.
    I tumble in the garage, and washing and depriming first makes my media have less dust and stay cleaner at least twice as long as it did.

    Maybe side benefits are good ventilation, less by-products in the media and less dust to come in contact with.

    Now my 'grass' may have some significant heavy metal problems.

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